Robert K. Morgan
|Robert K. Morgan|
July 31, 1918|
Asheville, North Carolina
|Died||May 15, 2004
Asheville, North Carolina
|Service/branch||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1941–1965|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Distinguished Flying Cross (3)
Air Medal (11)
Robert Knight Morgan (July 31, 1918 – May 15, 2004) was a Colonel and a Command Pilot in the United States Air Force from Asheville, North Carolina. During World War II, while a Captain in the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was a bomber pilot with the 8th Air Force in the European theater and the aircraft commander of the B-17 Flying Fortress, Memphis Belle.
Morgan attended the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and entered the Army Air Corps in 1940. He earned his pilot wings and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant December 12, 1941, then after advanced training at Walla Walla Army Air Base, Washington, was assigned to the 91st Bomb Group, 324th Bomb Squadron as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot. Morgan went overseas as part of the original group of combat crews and flew 25 combat missions over Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, between November 7, 1942, and May 17, 1943.
The Memphis Belle was the first heavy bomber in the Eighth Air Force to complete 25 combat missions in the European Theatre; and was the first to return to the United States as part of a publicity campaign to sell war bonds. In those missions, all of which were daylight raids, the Memphis Belle flew 148 hours, dropped over 60 tons of bombs, and had every major part of the plane replaced at least once. Morgan and his crew were the subjects of a 1944 film documentary, Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress.
Promoted to Major, Morgan flew a second combat tour in the Pacific Theater, commanding the 869th Bomb Squadron, 497th Bomb Group of the Twentieth Air Force. Flying the B-29 Superfortress from Isley Field, Saipan, he completed 26 missions over Japan until sent home on April 24, 1945. On November 24, 1944, he led the first mission of the XXI Bomber Command to bomb Japan, 110 aircraft of the 73rd Bomb Wing to Tokyo, with wing commander Brigadier General Emmett O'Donnell, Jr. as co-pilot. His B-29 was nicknamed Dauntless Dotty, after his third wife, Dorothy Johnson Morgan.
Among his military awards were the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, and the Air Medal with ten oak leaf clusters. He retired from the Air Force Reserve in the rank of Colonel in 1965.
Morgan was hospitalized April 22, 2004 with a fractured vertebra in his neck after falling outside the Asheville Regional Airport while returning home from what would be his last airshow appearance at the Sun 'n' Fun airshow at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, Florida. He died at Mission Hospital on May 15, 2004 from complications due to his injuries, including pneumonia. Colonel Morgan was laid to rest at the Western Carolina Veterans Cemetery located in Black Mountain, North Carolina.